GRILLED CHICKEN AND PEAR SANDWICH WITH SPINACH PESTO

Don’t let the fluorescent green put you off–it’s all natural. And delicious! Even my guys, who are a bit wary of food with a “foodie” look, gobbled down these sandwiches. Of course, I don’t think they were aware of the pear in the middle 🙂

SPINACH PESTO:

1/4 cup olive oil

1/2 cup mayonnaise (I used Kraft Reduced Fat Mayo with Olive Oil)

1/2 cup freshly grated parmesan

1/2 cup pine nuts

1/4 tsp sea salt

1/4 tsp black pepper

3 cups packed baby spinach

SANDWICH:

8 slices sourdough bread (make it a good one, like Panera’s)

1-1/2 cups mozzarella cheese

2 cups cooked and shredded chicken breast (deli-roasted chicken works well too)

1 pear, sliced thin

3 tbsp butter, softened

1) PESTO: To food processor, add: olive oil, mayonnaise, parmesan cheese, pine nuts, salt, and pepper; process 30-45 seconds until well combined; add spinach and process 30-45 seconds until well combined

2) SANDWICH: Assemble each sandwich as follows: spread spinach pesto on both sides of bread; layer: cheese, chicken, and pear; top with second piece of bread

3) In large skillet (or grill pan) over medium heat, melt half the butter; place sandwiches in skillet; while bottoms are grilling (3-4 minutes), spread remaining butter on top pieces of bread; turn sandwiches and grill additional 3-4 minutes until cheese melts; serve, serve, serve!

Makes: 4 sandwiches

NOTE: This is a “repeat” recipe featured on my original “Kitchen Novelist” blog 07/04/12–the one that disappeared into a black hole.

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SALMON-PINE NUT-RAISIN RICE SALAD

This warm salmon salad is a wonderful way to transition from warm weather food to cold weather food. The combination of Arborio rice, salmon, pine nuts, and raisins is over-the-top delicious. Enjoy!

Salmon-Pine Nut-Raisin Rice Salad

2 tbsp butter

1-1/4 cup Arborio rice

1/2 tsp sea salt

2-3/4 cups water

3 tbsp olive oil, divided

2 tbsp fresh lemon juice

4 green onions, sliced thin

1/3 cup pine nuts

1/3 cup golden raisins

2 tbsp chopped fresh parsley

1 lb fresh salmon

1) Melt butter in large skillet over medium-high heat; add rice and sea salt and cook, stirring often, 3-4 minutes until lightly toasted; reduce heat to low, add 2-3/4 cups water, and cook 18-20 minutes, stirring occasionally, until just tender; remove from heat, cover with lid, and set aside

2) Meanwhile, to medium-size bowl add: 2 tbsp olive oil (reserving 1 tbsp), lemon juice, green onions, pine nuts, golden raisins, and parsley; mix well and set aside

3) To large skillet over medium-high heat, add reserved 1 tbsp olive oil; add salmon to skillet and cook 3-4 minutes each side until just cooked through; remove from heat, transfer to bowl, and flake with a fork

4) Divide cooked rice between 4 plates; top with flaked salmon, and scatter with green onion-pine nut-raisin mixture; serve immediately–we are talking yum!

Servings: 4

STRAWBERRY-FETA-PINE NUT SALAD

We’re definitely moving toward cold weather food here in Tennessee, but that doesn’t mean we have to abstain from the occasional cool, crispy salad (served alongside a bowl of soup). Though chill rain was falling outside, this Strawberry-Feta-Pine Nut Salad hit the spot and my guys left the table full and happy. Give it a try!

Strawberry-Feta-Pine Nut Salad

8 cups chopped romaine lettuce

2 cups quartered strawberries, stems removed

1 Granny Smith apple, cored and sliced thin

4 oz block feta cheese, cut into triangles (about 1/4″ thick)

1/2 cup chopped pecans

2 green onions, sliced thin

2 tbsp pine nuts

1 tbsp chopped fresh parsley

Dressing (Ken’s Raspberry Walnut Vinaigrette is a good choice)

1) Divide romaine lettuce between four plates; top with strawberries, apple, feta cheese, pecans, green onions, pine nuts, and parsley; serve with dressing of your choice (Now wasn’t that easy?)

Servings: 4

BACON-WRAPPED CHICKEN SLIDERS

I recently picked up “The Burger” cookbook (published by Love Food) at my local Barnes & Noble and was so inspired by the recipes I decided to treat my guys to a version of one of their burgers every other night for the next 10 nights. With a bit of adaptation, I turned their “Bacon-Wrapped Chicken Burgers” (featuring pine nuts–yes!) into lovely little sliders. And my guys? Thrilled–and oh-so-filled!

Bacon-Wrapped Chicken Sliders

1/3 cup pine nuts

2/3 cup grated swiss cheese

1 cup diced red onion

1/4 cup parsley

1 lb ground chicken breast

1/2 tsp sea salt

1/4 tsp ground black pepper

1/4 cup all-purpose flour

8 strips bacon (turkey bacon is a nice substitute if you want to cut out some fat)

1 tbsp olive oil

8 small crusty rolls (I used Artisan’s “Asagio and Romano cheese Focaccia” rolls)

1 cup baby spinach

1 medium-sized tomato, sliced thin

Dijon mustard

Mayonnaise

1) To large mixing bowl, add pine nuts, swiss cheese, onion, parsley, ground chicken, salt, and pepper; mix well and place in refrigerator 1 hour

2) Shape chicken mixture into 8 small patties (1/2″-3/4″ thick); put flour in shallow bowl and lightly coat both sides of patties in flour; wrap each patty in 1 strip of bacon, overlapping on back side

3) To large skillet add olive oil and heat to medium high; place bacon-wrapped patties (overlapped side down) in skillet and cook approximately 5 minutes each side until just cooked through; remove from heat

4) Assemble sliders as follows: bottom half of roll, spinach, tomato, bacon-wrapped chicken patty, top half of roll; serve with mustard, mayonnaise and whatever other condiments you like; enjoy!

Servings: 4

BROCCOLI-PINE NUT-CURRANT CHICKEN

Eyebrows were raised when my guys’ favorite kitchen novelist plated this pretty meal. Why? It wasn’t because of the broccoli, red bell pepper,  or even the pine nuts. The perpetrator: currants, those teesnsy-weensy raisin-y bits of sweet indulgence. The verdict: thumbs up with the exception of Junior Too who scooted the currents aside and, otherwise, mightily enjoyed his dinner.

Broccoli-Pine Nut-Currant Chicken

4 tbsp olive oil, divided

3 large chicken breasts (about 1-1/2 lbs), sliced thin into bite-sized pieces

8 oz broccoli florets, coarsely chopped

1 red bell pepper, seeded and sliced thin into bite-sized pieces

lemon zest of one lemon

1/2 cup currants

1/4 cup pine nuts

1/4 tsp red pepper flakes

1/4 cup reduced-sodium soy sauce

1) To large skillet add 2 tbsp olive oil (reserving 2 tbsp); heat over medium; add chicken and, stirring occasionally, cook 7-8 minutes until just cooked through; transfer chicken to bowl and set aside

2) Wipe skillet clean, return to heat, and add reserved 2 tbsp oil; when oil is hot, add broccoli, red bell pepper, and lemon zest; stirring often, cook 5 minutes; stir in currants, pine nuts, and red pepper flakes and cook 3 minutes

3) Add chicken and soy sauce to skillet and, stirring often, cook 3 minutes; remove from heat and divide between 4 plates; serve with additional soy sauce and enjoy!

Servings: 4

APRICOT-BALSAMIC PORK LOIN CHOPS

The basil crust on this pork loin chop is a lovely addition, but it’s the apricot-balsamic sauce that wins the day (ask Junior Too–he sopped up every last drop, which he’s not inclined to do with most sauces). In other words, if you don’t have the time or ingredients, make it easy on yourself by foregoing the basil crust and simply drenching your chops in apricot-balsamic sauce. Delish!

Apricot-Balsamic Pork Loin Chops

1/3 cup chopped fresh basil

2 tbsp chopped fresh parsley

4 tbsp olive oil, divided

2 tbsp lemon juice

sea salt

ground black pepper

1/4 cup pine nuts

4 boneless pork loin chops (about 1-1/2 lb, 1-1/4″ thick)

1/2 cup apricot jam

1/2 cup balsamic vinegar

1) Make your basil sauce: add basil, parsley, 3 tbsp olive oil (reserving 1 tbsp), lemon juice, and a pinch each of salt and pepper to a blender; puree; add pine nuts to basil sauce and blend a few seconds to keep some of the pine nuts intact

2) To grill pan, add reserved 1 tbsp olive oil; heat to medium-high

3) Meanwhile, spread half the basil sauce on one side of each pork loin chop

4) Place pork loin chops, basil side down in grill pan and reduce heat to medium; spread remaining basil sauce on tops of pork loins; cook approximately 6 minutes each side until meat is no longer pink in center

5) While pork is grilling, heat apricot jam and balsamic vinegar in small saucepan over medium heat and stir often; when sauce is well combined, lower heat to simmer

6) Plate pork loin and pour apricot-balsamic sauce over top; serve immediately

Servings: 4

POMEGRANATE-AND-PINE NUT-STREWN BASMATI RICE WITH STEAK AND CHICKEN

Our family shared this dish with friends last night and it was a hit. I know: the pomegranate seeds (arils) are pretty, but…really? With meat? With chicken-flavored basmati rice? Yes, yes, and yes. Those tasty little jewels took this dish from what would surely have been quite good to explosively delicious. Same goes for the pine nuts. So roll up your adventurous sleeves and give it a try. P/S: Senior disagrees, but I think this dish would have been better yet had I cut out the steak and doubled up on the chicken. But I’m more of a chicken person 🙂

2 tbsp olive oil

1 white onion, diced

1/2 tsp dried thyme

1/2 tsp ground cumin

1/2 tsp ground coriander

2 cups brown basmati rice

3-1/2 cups chicken broth

1 lb grilled steak (I used top sirloin)

2 cups deli-roasted chicken, chopped

2 tbsp minced parsley

2 tbsp minced cilantro

1/4 cup green onions, sliced thin

1/4 cup pine nuts

1/2 cup pomegranate seeds (you’ll have to dig through the fruit for them)

1) Heat oil in large skillet over medium-high heat, add onions and cook, stirring often, 5-6 minutes; add thyme, cumin, and coriander and, stirring often, cook additional 5-6 minutes until onions are tender

2) Stir in rice; add broth and bring to a boil; cover skillet with lid, reduce heat to low/simmer and cook 45-50 minutes, stirring occasionally, until rice is tender

3) Meanwhile, grill steak to your preferred doneness (I started grilling 20 minutes before rice mixture was finished cooking, allowing time for steak to sit a few minutes before slicing); slice steak into thin, bite-sized pieces

4) Stir chicken into rice mixture and cook 1-2 minutes to allow chicken to warm through; remove skillet from stove and stir in steak; transfer mixture to a serving bowl, strew with parsley, cilantro, green onions, pine nuts, and pomegranate seeds (I used only half the toppings and put the remainder in little bowls to allow diners to personalize their taste experience); serve away!

Servings: 4-6

Note: Adapted from Nigella Lawson’s Mixed Meat Pilaf recipe